President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Americans to come together on the fourth anniversary of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and said more work needs to be done in light of the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this year.
“[We] know there is more work we must do as a nation — as we saw with the mob of insurrectionists at the United States Capitol on January 6th that joins the horror we saw in Charlottesville as shameful chapters in our history,” the president said in a statement.
Four years ago — on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017 — neo-Nazis and white supremacists took to the streets of Charlottesville for the “Unite The Right” rally. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at the event. Fields was later sentenced to life in prison.
“The most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland in recent years has been domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy,” Biden said. “We cannot ignore it. We must confront the spread of hate-fueled violence in every form.”
Some of the very same people who participated in the Charlottesville unrest went on to storm the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. For example, far-right activist Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet both addressed the crowd in Charlottesville and livestreamed himself inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. He was later arrested by the FBI.
Biden kicked off his presidential campaign in April 2019 by saying he was motivated, in part, because of what happened in Virginia. “I knew the threat to our nation was unlike any I’d ever seen in my lifetime,” he said in the video announcing his campaign.
On his first opportunity to mark that occasion as president, Biden made clear that his administration is focused on that threat. He pointed to its push to reshape the federal government’s counterterrorism budget, which called for millions of dollars going toward “emerging domestic terrorist threats.”
In July, four law enforcement officers delivered testimony in front of the House select committee charged with investigating the Capitol riot, describing the Jan. 6 attack and how they were affected physically and emotionally.
Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone gave a heated response to Republican legislators who downplayed the violence that took place within the Capitol.
“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them, and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist, or that hell wasn’t actually that bad,” he said. “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”
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